Welcome to our mid-life crisis! These are the chronicles of Laura and Patrick, their young son Jack, and their goofball Labrador Retriever named Evinrude (Rudy), as they travelled the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico in their catamaran. We went cruising in search of a change of pace, a closer knit family, and peace of mind. We found all three and more. The fun all started in October, 2008 and nearly four years later the Mexican adventure came to an end August 3rd, 2012. With our mid-life crisis cured in Mexico, we are excited to start a new adventure - life back in America.

Patrick has since joined the Sales Team of Marine Servicenter as a boat broker. Whether you are looking to make your dream of sailing away come true, or ready to sell your boat he can help. He can be reached at http://marinesc.com/about/crew/patrick-harrigan

Candeleros Chico

Candeleros Chico
Just another beautiful day at anchor on the Baja. 2010

Dolphins at play in the bow wake 2011

Dolphins at play in the bow wake  2011

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mexico's Greatest Invention

Media Crema. And no, I am not being facetious. I LOVE the stuff. We buy it by the case!

Media Crema, for those of you who are Spanish challenged like I am, means "half cream" or what we would call "half and half." Now I am one of those people who believe that butter should be butter and that adding 2% milk to coffee instead of cream is disrespectful to your taste buds. (As you can imagine, I have been known to have high cholesterol but my high number of good HDL's cancel out the lower number of bad LDL's - or was it the other way around? Anyway, that's what the doctor said so I am not changing my game plan!)

In Mexico, they have taken 1/2 and 1/2 and elevated it to a whole new level of useful goodness. Mexico's milk products are ultra-pastuerized so they do not need to be refrigerated. All the milk products are found in plasticized cartons on the regular grocery shelves. You only need to refrigerate them after they are opened. So they are very useful on a boat. The Media Crema comes out a much thicker consistency than our 1/2 and 1/2 - it's so thick that our other name for it is "cow goo."

What makes Media Crema so amazing? It's not just for coffee! Over the course of the last two years we have learned its versatility.

Media Crema can be used to make:

Sour Cream - simply add a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of Media Crema, stir well, and it magically becomes thick, tasty sour cream. If you like a little tarter sour cream, just add a little more vinegar (or use lime juice instead if vinegar)

Buttermilk - Simply thin the cup of Media Crema down with about a 1/3 cup of water, then add in the tablespoon of vinegar. Voila, you can make your grandmother's buttermilk biscuits.

Alfredo Sauce - This is the best alfredo sauce ever. Lightly saute a couple cloves of fresh minced garlic and whatever meat/vegetables you want (chicken, scallops, lobster, red pepper?) in butter (what else?). When the meat is cooked, remove pan from heat and then pour some Media Crema into the pan, as much as you need for a nice amount of sauce. Stir it up. Dinner in minutes!

Chipotle Cream Sauce - Mix a store bought chipotle sauce with Media Crema to the heat you prefer - Patrick likes it hot, I put in less chipotle sauce. Yum. Try cooking strips of chicken breast or shrimp in this sauce on the stove top.

Tomatillo Cream Sauce - Mix a store bought can of green salsa (made of tomatillos) with some Media Crema so it turns a light green color. Pour this over fresh fish in a baking pan and cook it in the oven until done. Yummy.

Milk in a pinch - Thin it out with water and use it instead of milk in recipes.

Well, you get the idea. We love the stuff. We eat it every day, starting with the cream in our coffee, through to sour cream at lunch, and on to sauces for our dinner. I would hate to have my cholesterol checked now since I am clearly addicted to Media Crema.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

God Bless Us, Everyone

My trip to Iowa was emotional, sad and wonderful all at the same time. Terry had a beautiful send-off and hundreds of people attended. He was a good man who was so involved in his community and church that he will be truly missed be many. I was so grateful to be there for my sister.
Iowa is cold. I spent my childhood there on a farm, but somehow I never realized how cold it was until coming back straight from Mexico as an adult. Absolutely freezing. We had a blizzard! 50 mile per hour wind, snow, nearly zero degrees Fahrenheit. Add in the wind chill factor and it is not fit for man nor beast. Yikes.
Meanwhile, while I was braving the cold, Patrick, Jack and Rudy picked up Patrick's brother Neil in Loreto on the Baja peninsula. Then the four of them crossed the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan. They had a good crossing. Some of the time they had so much wind that they sailed with only a reefed main and no jib and still did 6 knots. At other times, they had to motor. But even so they made the crossing in 55 hours, so they were making good time.

We are having some goofy luck right now on several different fronts. Our 1 month old Honda 2000 generator has just stopped working. There is no way to get it back to America for them to fix it under warranty and it looks like they do not sell that model down here, so parts are not easily avaliable. Rudy is having another bad hot spot outbreak and his neck is a mass of sores. Despite having reservations for one year at El Cid, they did not have room for us on a dock with power, and will not have room until after Christmas. And last but not least, somehow all 150 gallons of fresh water that Patrick made on the crossing has gone missing from the tanks (a leak, or open spigot?). Despite all of these tales of woe, I can't feel anything but gratitude for all of our many, many blessings. Everything that matters is just perfect.
A very merry Christmas and a properous New Year to all of us!

Monday, December 6, 2010

To Iowa I Go

I got one of those calls yesterday that we all dread - especially those who are far from loved ones. It is the one big downside to this amazing cruising life. When something happens and you HAVE to go somewhere, it's often not just a simple - "I'll get on the next plane out." There are times in our cruising when we wouldn't even HEAR about it until it was all over. Up in the far north of the Sea of Cortez it would take days to just hear about it (no phone service, no internet, only sail mail if you remembered to check it) and then it would take days to get to an airport.

The ironic thing was, we've been hanging around Loreto since I was already planning to fly to Iowa on Dec 9th to be with my sisters and parents. Loreto is the furthest north area which regularly has cell phone service and internet available, and a commercial airport. So while we sat yesterday morning (the 6th) at the beautiful anchorage of Ballandra on Isla Carmen, the phone rang. It's always a surprise when that happens. We found out that my sister's life partner died suddenly the night before (the 5th). A vibrant, active, great guy in his early 50's who started to feel ill at lunch time and died that night in the hospital. The shock is overwhelming. After hanging up, we motored back to Puerto Escondido for internet and to change my flights. I fly out today on the only flight that leaves Loreto for the States. It will take five airports and over 18 hours to make all the connections it takes to go from one obscure airport to another one. I'll get there the day before the funeral.

But I will be there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A "Wind Event?" - Oh, Let's Just Call it a Gale

I've noticed somewhere along the way that the hip phrase to use in cruising circles when talking about an upcoming wind storm is to call it a "wind event". It does sound so hip and unconcerned - and isn't that what sailors are all about? We don't worry about the weather - we use hurricanes to dry our clothes!

Meanwhile, we've been sitting out the last "wind event" on a mooring ball at Puerto Escondido. Yesterday we had mid-30's pretty consistent with gusts up to the 40's - some boats saying they have recorded up to 50 knots of wind. The"event" is continuing on today since there is an 18 millibar gradient difference encompassing the 900 miles of the Baja Peninsula from tip to tip. Don Anderson of Summer Passage Radio (the weatherman for the Amigo and Southbound nets) is calling for winds from 50 to 60 knots today - even higher than yesterday.

Am I worried? Truthfully, no. More grumpy than anything else. It's no danger, as long as the system anchoring you in place remains true. It's just lumpy, and loud and it makes it hard to sleep. Puerto Escondido is a large bay nearly perfectly enclosed by surrounding hills. It is supposed to be the perfect hidey hole for all big blows and boaters come here during the hurricane months to sit them out in safety. Unfortunately the problem I am having is that since the bay is so big, you still get a lot of fetch. The bay has white caps with the tops being blown off. The waves are only about 1 foot, but they are very closely spaced. And I do not like relying on the marina's anchoring system. How do I know what their line looks like that is attaching me to the mooring ball? Or what about the one attaching my next door neighbor to his?

I know a lot of people would disagree, but I would much rather be anchored in some tiny cove all by ourselves with good NW protection for this "wind event." We've been anchored in 88 knots (for those of you new to the blog check out the Feb 4, 2010 blog - scary stuff) and the only thing I was really worried about were all the boats with failing anchors that were trying to hit us. My advice for any new cruiser - get a good anchor, have lots of big chain, supersize your ground tackle and always take the time to really set your anchor well. Then the next time there's a "Wind Event" coming, set yourself up in a good little cove, close to the sheltering shore and get your movies and popcorn ready. I'll be sure to follow my own advice next time around, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Making Ricotta Cheese

Living in a country that has a very different culinary culture from your own for over two years can cause some pretty extreme taste cravings. Thankfully, Patrick and I both enjoy cooking and we manage to keep body and soul together with some very good meals out here. But there are some grocery items that are just not available here, or are only available for a very high price (Can you believe I once paid $8 US for a box of Fig Newtons?). But since we are trying to stay out longer than we originally intended, we are now on a budget. For some time I have been craving a good pan of lasagna, but I have not even seen ricotta cheese for sale for almost a year, I think. Lasagna noodles are a little easier to find, and I had picked up some last time I saw them almost six months ago.
So imagine my joy when my good friend Meri on Hotspur told me that you could make ricotta cheese. I was desperate, so I tried it. Wow! It was like magic and I was so jazzed about it (and the resultant pan of yummy lasagna) that I had to share it with you.
The entire process takes about fifteen minutes. The ingredients are simple - 3 cups of dried whole (must be whole) milk, 6 cups of cold water, and 3/4 cup white vinegar. In a large saucepan mix the dried milk and water until dissolved. Heat over medium heat until the liquid is hot to touch but not boiling. Do not let it boil, but keep it hot. Then dump in the vinegar and start stirring. Almost immediately the curds will begin forming. Keep stirring for about ten to fifteen more minutes until the curds (the cheese) and the whey (the yellowish leftover liquid) seperate completely. Then pour this into a strainer lined with cheese cloth. I don't have cheesecloth so I used a clean tank top. Gently squeeze out the whey, then rinse with cold water and squeeze out the liquid again. Then empty the cheese ball out onto a plate lined with some paper toweling, just to get a little more water out. If you squeeze out too much water, the ricotta is a little dry, but you can just add some cream when you are mixing it up for the lasagna, later to compensate. And Voila! you have perfect ricotta cheese. The recipe makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups ricotta cheese. I don't have access to store bought ricotta so I can't do a side-by-side comparison, but I am pretty sure that it IS ricotta cheese. It sure makes a great tasting lasagna.
Our lasagna was so good that we made two pans of lasagna in two days! Still recovering from the overload.
Meri has started a very cool website with lots of great lasagna recipes on it. She is working on adding the ricotta cheese recipe too, so you should see it on there soon. There are more recipes for different lasagnas than I have ever seen, so it is already a great site to visit. You can find it at http://lasagnarecipehq.com/
Check it out!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Team Budget and the Baja 1000

Today was just one of those magical days. You set off on one adventure and then you find out that something even better is in store for you. Since both Steff and her kids (Adios 3) and Jack and I are hanging out in Puerto Escondido waiting for our Captains to return, we decided to have some fun. Well truthfully, Steff decided to have some fun and she invited us along for the ride. Glad she did. We set out in a small rental car for the San Javier Mission which is about 32 kilometers out of Loreto, up into the Sierra de la Gigantes mountains.
It was 32 kilometers off the main road , and only half of it was paved. We were a little worried starting out since the Budget Rental representative was a little hesitant when we told him our plans. But Steff is a woman not to be deterred, and off we went.
Honestly, the road was not that bad, but when we hit the 20 miles of dirt roads, things started to get interesting. Up, up, up we wound through the canyons, past a couple of remote ranches, and through some spectacularly beautiful countryside. We saw caballeros (cowboys) on horseback, free ranging cows and goats, and lots of cactus, rocks and empty land. But our first indication of something special going on was the tricked out motorcycle that blew by us with driver decked out in fancy protective clothing. The next clue was when we passed two men standing by a fancy truck in the middle of nowhere who started laughing when they spied us and told us that they were a check point for the Baja 1000 race. I didn't really believe them. The final clue was when we reached the San Javier Mission and met the driving team of contestants #601 with the driver J.T. Taylor, his back-up driver and one of his road crew. (J. T. is the one with the mustache.) For those of you not in the know, the Baja 1000 is one of those crazy off-road races that started back in the late 60's. It has morphed into something entirely different since then, but basically teams of drivers in different vehicles (motorbikes, dune buggies, big trucks) race off-road through the Baja Peninsula with the help of big money sponsors.

After that, the afternoon became sort of funny. On our way back down the mountain we passed a couple different Baja 1000 contestants who were practicing on the road. I can't imagine what they thought, contestants in one of the roughest motorized off-road land races in the Americas when they were passing two Moms and 3 teens in a small sized Budget Rental car. Go Team Budget!!!!

Captainless in Escondido

Hey Everyone!
Currently Jack, Rudy and I are in charge of the boat. Though we have thought about voting Patrick off of the boat at times in the past, that is not why he is absent now. One of Patrick's best friends from home came down for a visit. Within two days of Tom being down here, they had rented a car and headed for the states. Supposedly they are picking up all of the replacement parts, supplies, and upgrades that we need after this Summer of Breakdowns. They aren't fooling me though - they are just off on a Boys Only Road Trip. If they find their way back "on schedule," I will be surprised.
Meanwhile, Jack, Rudy and I are having a very nice time. Our good friends on Adios 3 are also in Puerto Escondido without their captain. Charlie is off on a business trip, leaving Steff and the kids to manage without him. So we have been having a lovely time together. Today we have rented a car to go exploring the San Javier Mission which is nearby, and are hoping to take in some pictographs (cave paintings) left from the indigenous inhabitants. So over the next couple of days, look for more pictures of our experiences.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Life with a Salty Dog

This post is in response to some comments and questions about life with a dog, cruising on a boat.
Nothing is better than waking up in the morning and seeing the goofy, happy face of Rudy, excited to see me after a WHOLE night spent apart. It is just a great way to start the day. Anyone who has been following our blog for long knows that we have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Rudy healthy, safe and happy while we cruise around Mexico. It is not an easy task. But Rudy makes the effort worthwhile for us. He has put his mark (so to speak) on our time cruising from deciding what boat to buy to where we go.
Bathroom breaks - We are very fortunate since Rudy quickly learned how to use a 2' x 3' piece of astro turf as his personal potty. It only took him 2 days to figure it out, which is pretty good for him. I know many dogs who require daily trips to the beach to relieve themselves and will hold it for days if they are at sea. I don't know why he picked it up so quickly, but these are the steps we took. We poured some of our pee onto the mat and had it in place before he ever even set foot on the boat. We placed him on the boat and did not let him off until he peed. It took just over 24 hours. He went right to the mat and peed. We gave him a big chunk of raw bacon (first time in his life). About 30 minutes later he had a bowel movement on the mat and we gave him more bacon. And then after that he started running into the galley whenever he used the mat, so we figured he had it down and stopped giving him bacon. He has never had an accident. We keep his mat up on the bow of our boat and when it is dirty, we simply drop it overboard on a line and let it soak.
Food - Rudy eats a 40 lb bag of dog food in about a month. Back home in America we fed Rudy an imported dog food that was 70% protein, 100% hype, cost $80 per 50 lb bag and was only sold in high-end pet stores. They don't even sell that down here. The best brand dog food we can find is Royal Canin and it costs $120 for 40 lb bag. We have only found it for sale in Mazatlan or La Paz. So guess what? Rudy has actually continued to survive just fine eating Purina Dog Food! It costs about $35 for a 50lb bag and it is sold anywhere that is big enough to have a real store. Since it is probably not the most nutritious food, we heavily suplement Rudy's diet with potato peelings, apple cores, tomato ends, homemade dried fish treats and chicken broth. Rudy is a regular compost heap. We often travel with 150 lbs of dog food on board since the food bought in large grocery stores in large cities is less likely to be infested with bugs.
Excercise - Rudy is a big, young dog and he needs a lot of excercise in order to be well behaved. His main form of excercise is swimming. If we are in anchorages, he swims at least once, but usually several times a day. We are very lucky that Rudy quickly learned how to haul himself up onto the boat all on his own by climbing the swim ladder. If we are in a marina or anchorage, we try to bring him onto land at least once a day for a walk/play. In a marina he gets lots of little walks every day. If we are on passage, he just puts up with not having any excercise. Like any dog, the more excercise he gets, the better behaved he is - so we are highly motivated.
Where to sail - Having a dog has really shaped our cruise in one huge way. It severely restricts where we can go and what we can do. One of the joys of cruising is putting your boat in a marina and getting off of it for a couple weeks of inland travel. Big dogs like Rudy are not allowed on public transportation usually (you can find a nice driver, but it's not a certainty.) So if we want to go traveling with Rudy, we have to spend a lot of money getting a rental car, which takes a lot of fun out of the trip since you don't get to experience the fun of public transportation. We don't feel comfortable leaving Rudy behind and paying someone to take care of him on our boat, and would only do it if we really knew the people and liked them.
Having Rudy on board is also a big part of why we are not interested in going to the South Pacific, or even Central America. There are very strict quarantine laws for animals in most of the island countries of the Pacific. And Central American cruising involves long stints in marinas and lots of inland travel. Both of those destinations involve ocean passages where Rudy would get no excercise. Therefore neither of those destinations can be on our list.
Safety - Sometimes it seems that Rudy is intent on killing himself and taking one of us with him. He has often picked up dead pufferfish and gleefully run around the beach, refusing to drop (the poison in their innards can kill a dog in less than a day.) He has raced off into the hills of desolate anchorages and refused to come back (rattlesnakes). He has been attacked by a pack of dogs (stray dogs are everywhere in Mexico) which we had to beat off with a chair. He has had mange, hot spots, skin infections, been stung by a stingray, infected with anaplasmosis by a tick bite, and been swarmed by bees when he was drying off from a bath. Once he almost knocked me off the boat during a passage when no one else was on deck. Life with Rudy is exciting. He has required more medical care here in Mexico than all three of us combined.
So in conclusion - We decided to get a dog three years ago because life seemed so hum drum and we felt like we were missing something. Some people get pregnant when they have that feeling but that wasn't an option for us. So we got a dog and realized after the puppy glow wore off that it wasn't the fix we were looking for. So a few months later, the idea struck us that we should sell everything and leave that life behind. We were very fortunate and managed to be casting off dock lines 6 months later. Now that was the right answer and we have never regretted it. But we still had a dog - a very big, very young dog who had completely wormed his way into our hearts. If I could go back in time, I would never have gotten a dog and would have jumped straight into selling everything. Our life would be much, much easier. But it would not be quite as much fun, I think.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why are we buying water when we own a Spectra Watermaker, built by one of the leading (and most expensive) water maker companies? It's a good question. And I'll get to the answer after I talk a little about water and cruising in the Sea of Cortez.

When we set about outfitting Just a Minute in that crazy two weeks before we left, we knew for sure that we wanted a water maker for our cruise. It was one of the best decisions we made. We purchased the Spectra 15 gallon per hour model. Spectra is really great due to its low power usage. Our solar panels supply enough power to run it. I love being able to take solar power and make fresh drinking water out of sea water. And the water tastes so good. It is magic! An abundant source of fresh clean water makes life a joy.

There are lots of cruisers who either do not have water makers or they have water makers that do not produce many gallons per hour. These cruisers are constantly thinking about their fresh water usage and use salt water for taking baths, washing dishes/clothes, washing off their boat - then quickly rinsing in fresh. It's a lot of work. When one of these cruisers see us giving Rudy a thorough fresh water shower on the back steps after every swim (sometimes three or four times a day) they are flabbergasted. We have to do it for his health - it keeps him from breaking out in hot spots. And we do the same for ourselves - it keeps our boat interior from getting inundated with salt residue, which helps it last longer. We are water pigs, and happy to be that way. OINK!

If you were only cruising in America and Canada, you could easily get along by refilling your tanks at the marinas, but in Mexico that is not really an option. Most Mexican marinas do not offer potable water on their docks. Or if they do offer it, it often tastes bad. So if you don't have a good water maker, then you have to buy water and fill your tanks from five gallon jugs. Which is what we found ourselves doing just yesterday. It's a lot of work. Buying, loading, hauling, and filling tanks with 160 gallons of water is an effort, and expensive.

Which brings us to the answer of why we bought water. After two years of babying along our Spectra, it finally had a catastrophic failure two weeks ago. Thank God we were at anchor (not running the engines) and we heard the faint little "PHeewwt" sound that heralded the absolute cascade of water that came gushing into our boat under our bed. If we had been underway, we never would have heard it and the boat would have been filling up like a bathtub. (Once again we are incredibly lucky in our bad luck!)

During our two years with the Spectra we have had almost innumerable problems, even though we have faithfully followed the manufacturer's care instructions. It has only been making 1/2 of its advertised output for about one year; both feed pumps have failed seperately; a stainless steel pipe developed hi-pressure pin hole leaks; and now the membrane housing has cracked. One of the feed pumps was covered under warranty, but everything else has happened outside the warranty. We have been using it extensively for two years,
but I would expect more lasting power from a major purchase.

Would I recommend getting a large output water maker before starting a cruise - absolutely. Would I recommend Spectra brand - probably not. We are already thinking about replacing our Spectra with a CruiseRO water maker. It's a much cheaper, simpler, higher output water maker which needs a generator to operate. Interested? You can find them at http://www.cruiserrowater.com/

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again

I always thought that was a stupid saying. Now thanks to Washington State tax law, it is true for us. We've been researching the in and outs of coming home and have hit a nasty little roadblock called the WA State Use Tax. Let me explain.

We bought our boat in CA. Now two years later we want to return to US waters. We are legally WA state residents though we have not lived there or voted there for two years and we sold our primary residence, but we do still hold WA State Driver's Licenses. Since we are WA state residents, the moment we enter WA state waters we are liable to pay the WA State Use Tax on the "Blue Book" value of our boat. It is equivalent to the WA state sales tax so it is anywhere from 7.9 to 9.5%, depending on where you register your boat. That's a lot of money! If we had that kind of money to spend, we would be sailing in the Mediterranean!

On the other hand, Alaska charges a flat fee for registering a boat for use on their waters. It's $24.00. You have to pay it if you are planning to stay 90 days or longer. I think that is an annual fee, so look out folks, plan ahead.

So for all our family and friends, here's fair warning. We may be coming up to the PNW within the year, but you won't be seeing us in WA waters until we figure this out. We are interested in moving to Alaska and that could be one solution. Once we are non-residents, we can enter WA waters for 60 days. You can then apply for another sixty days, but after that time period is up you have to get your boat out of WA waters or you get nailed with the Use Tax again. OUCH! that is a lot of money to pay for the pleasure of exploring WA waterways.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Snapshots of Summer

There are so many great memories from this summer - old friends, new anchorages, new experiences, lots of fish, lots of breakdowns and lots of making due. We swam with whale sharks, beached our boat, speared large fish (just not as big as Ethan's!), made new friends, and read tons of good books. We saw thousands of dolphins, hundreds of whales, and more beautiful sunsets and shooting stars than I ever saw previously in my life. Here is just a recap of some of the highlights.

The Great Race - our very first time actually trying to sail fast enough to beat someone else. I really didn't want to participate; I was scared to tell the truth. I still feel sometimes like we don't know how to sail, even though we've been sailing around two years now. But in the end, despite the broken camera and the pain of my felt-like-broken leg, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. What a riot! And next time I'm in a race, I'll make sure all the hatches are closed first.

Lots of fish - The new spear gun has earned it's purchase price in meals, that's for sure. And when you add in the entertainment value that Jack and Patrick had, then it's worth more than we paid. The Sea of Cortez is loaded with fish and we've enjoyed our fair share! We caught some of the fish the old fashioned way with a pole and hook, but the boys have had most of thier fun, snorkeling along with a spear in hand - selecting exactly the fish they wanted.

Careening!!! I still can't believe we did it! We have talked about doing it for about a year but had not seriously committed to it by picking a time or place. And then when we pulled into Puerto Don Juan and saw Java already up on the sand, it just seemed as easy as pie to follow suit. And it was surprisingly easy. But it just seems so WRONG to drive your boat up on the beach! All and all, it was a very cool experience and we will definately be repeating it as needed.

Great Anchorages, as always. We spent about ten weeks on the hook in the northern 1/2 of the Sea of Cortez. We re-visited our favorites from last year including Este Ton (pictured here) and Puerto Refugio. We also managed to explore some new anchorages including Alcatraz, Bahia de Hueso (Bay of Bones), Isla Salsipuedes, the Inner Harbor at San Francisquito, and checked out a few that weren't in any guide books. There are still plenty of others we haven't seen, and if we weren't so excited to explore the Inland Passage to Alaska, I'm sure we could spend another summer.... I say that now, but just don't remind me of the heat! Yikes, it gets hot down here.

Friends - the best part of cruising. Maybe it's because we all made the same choice to leave everything and come out here, or maybe I just have more time to get to know people, but either way I have to tell you - I have never met so many people that I have bonded so easily with. We have all made so many good friends out here, and many of them feel like family. What a blessing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Story #4 You Can't Be More Generous Than A Mexican

In the two years we have lived here, I have been amazed time and again by the generosity and kindness we have received from Mexicans. For the most part, we have only been met with kindness and this story proves that in Mexico, it is hard to be more generous - the more you give, the more they give.

One morning in Refugio, Patrick and I were discussing how strange it was that this summer we had not once been approached by a "pangero" (a fisherman who lives for weeks at a time out in the islands in a 20' open boat). Many times last summer we were approached in remote anchorages by these fishermen, asking us to trade water/food/gas for lobster or some other delicacy they had caught.

In the usual way of life, not ten minutes later a panga pulled up with three men on board. Despite our lack of Spanish, we learned that they had run out of water five days ago. There was currently a strong wind blowing from the south and they were pinned there until the weather changed. They held up a five gallon container and asked for us to give them some water. Even though our water maker has been on the fritz and making far less than it usually does, we were happy to fill up their container. They seemed a little surprised when we filled the whole thing up. Since we were being so generous, they asked shyly if we could fill up another container, which we did.

Then the lead man asked if we liked scallops. Sure! Who doesn't? He asked us to wait just a little bit and he would be back. While he was gone, we decided to give him some new Cemex T-shirts that we had hanging around the boat (Patrick came down with bags of them to give away) so we dug those out.

About fifteen minutes later, they returned. They handed over a burlap rice bag that looked about 1/4 full. When Patrick opened it, he saw that it wasn't filled with scallops in the shell as he expected, it was filled with just the scallop meat and a couple lobster. The bag weighed about 30 lbs. I got out a Ziploc bag and we started putting some of the huge scallops into it. We asked the man, "How many?" and he replied, "Todos." All!!! "Es verdad?" Are you sure?

We couldn't believe it! We didn't want to take that many and started protesting. He went on to explain that they had been living at Refugio for the last month in a little fish camp and they were out of water, and their ice supply was getting thin. They had brought supplies to stay there about a month. We had told them earlier that the weather was forecasted to continue on for two more days and they didn't think that they would have enough ice to keep all of their catch fresh until they could get it to market. So in the manner of asking us to do a favor for them, they gave us about 30 lbs of fresh, beautiful, huge, ice-cold scallops and a couple lobster tails.

Scrambling to keep up with their generosity, we filled up another five gallon water jug for them and handed over the bag of three T-shirts. Our fifteen gallons of water and T-shirts seemed a paltry trade in comparison to our bag of treasure. That is a lot of scallops! Thankfully there were two other boats at anchor, so we shared the bounty and still ended up with two gallon Ziplocs stuffed with luscious scallops in our Engel freezer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Story #3 Why is Mexican Medical Care More Accessible Than the US of A's?

So, here my family is, foreigners living in a "Second World" country in which we enjoy the beauty but do not support by paying taxes. Our personal wealth is far above most of the inhabitants of this country, yet we really we are not even middle class by American terms anymore. I share this story with a sense of awe and shame that my "First World" country cannot offer the same kindness to the foreigners living on her soil.

On the last day we planned to stay in the LA Bay area, we chose to anchor at La Mona, which is in a corner of the giant bay area. La Mona boasts a beautiful rock hill, which almost looks like an ancient city since the rocks have very grand geometric shapes, and look like building blocks stacked on each other. Jack was throwing Rudy's last tennis ball against one of the rocks and it lodged way up on the cliff. Jack climbed up to get it, barefoot. Of course, he fell without good footing. He fell six feet onto a small ledge and only caught himself because his foot got jammed up on some rocks. One of his toes was the only thing that kept him from falling another twenty feet onto a pile of rocks. His toe looked like it had been pulled off and put on backwards. He was in a great deal of pain.

I looked at his toe and thought that he had dislocated it, but was not sure if instead it was broken. Like I said, it was obvious that it was not put on the right way. I knew that a dislocation could be snapped back into place, but a broken bone should not be manipulated so harshly. I wasn't sure what to do. Jack did not want to be my guinea pig. We consulted a fellow cruiser with a lot of medical experience and she just said, "Take him to the clinic in BLA." So we did.

We walked into the tiny clinic. We waited about ten minutes for someone to be able to see us. They then examined Jack, got the doctor and had her examine Jack. Then the doctor said in perfect English, "This will hurt." She pulled Jack's toe out and we all heard it snap back into place. Voila! They then gave us pain medication and told us how to care for his toe. When we asked how much we owed, we were told that we owed nothing! We were stunned. We asked if we could give a donation, and were refused.

Can you tell me, how in the world a child of a foreigner who does not pay taxes can die from an ear infection in America because the family can't affort to bring him in for care, and yet my family can walk into a Mexican clinic without an appointment, without giving our name, without signing one form, without waiting hours, and receive not only free medical care but also free medication? How is that possible? It makes me feel very ashamed and sad.

Story #2 Shopping at The Godfather's Food Mart - Remember the Horse Head in Bed?

Shopping for groceries in Bahia de Los Angeles is full of interesting contrasts. Since it is so close to America, the shelves of the five major (all tiny) food stores are stocked with American products not seen in other parts of Mexico - even the big places like Mazatlan. Here you can find molasses, brown sugar, David brand sunflower seeds and Kirkland brand everything. Yet, while you are happily snapping up G&H Dark Brown Sugar, you can find quite a few other items "not seen at Safeway" as Jack sarcastically states.

Take for instance this skinned cow head with attached horns. It first showed up in the tiny freezer section of Guillermo's tienda about a week or two into the summer. It was gently placed on the cement floor, on top of a piece of cardboard with a plastic bag filled with it's innards next to it. Since it was tucked into the corner, the first time I glimpsed it in the dark room, behind the 20# bag of carrots I was reaching into, I gasped. But then over the following seven weeks, each time I inadvertantly glimpsed it while heaving around and restacking the boxes of veggies, looking for oranges or celery, I would still be surprised. Even though I KNEW it was there. But that last shopping expedition, when I was grabbing up handfuls of fruits and vegetables for the last sailing expedition up to Refugio, I screamed. Its eyes had by now fallen into its head, the tongue was lolling out blackened. Truly a gruesome sight and one I will never forget. What meal do you cook with that as the main ingredient?

And that wasn't the only thing that was "not like Safeway." I still remember picking through a pile of apples in a refrigerator in one LA Bay store last year, and coming upon ones with fresh rat bites (were the rats in the freezer section with me????). Or walking through the aisles of another store and dodging four cockroaches busily moving around the bags of bread. And another cruiser had the fun of watching a street dog peeing on the box of fruit just unloaded from the delivery truck outside of one store. A decaying cow's head just inches from the carrots? Ok, as long as the carrots were from the TOP of the bag.

And that is the fun of traveling off the beaten path - it keeps you focused on the fact that this is a great big world and there are lots of ways of doing things. Is Safeway food safer? I doubt it. One thing is for sure - I now religiously wash every piece of fruit or vegetable that comes on the boat in an iodine bath - and I will when I am back in America, too.

Story #1 Thar She Blows! - Encounters of the Whale Kind

We are finally back in civilization - okay it's just Santa Rosalia, but we are tied to a dock, we have all the hot running water on the boat we need, all the electricity we can use, cell phone service, and INTERNET on the boat! We are in heaven. Internet was so spotty up in LA Bay and beyond that I never got a chance to share some of the pictures and stories of the summer. So over the next week while we are enjoying civilization again, I'll be posting some of the better stories, and this one was an amazing experience.

On our way south from LA Bay, we decided to visit Isla Salsipuedes (Leave if You Can Island). Who wouldn't want to visit a place by that name? We had to see it. It is said to have very jagged, detached, submerged, pinnacle rocks around the shore; very strong currents; and an extensive reef. The island was lovely and we had no trouble leaving, but getting there was a different story!

You have to cross a very deep channel to get to the island which is about 14 miles off shore. As we were crossing, directly in our path to the island we could see the blow spouts of dozens of whales, covering about a mile. In the distance, a few whales were breaching completely out of the water, and all around in front of us we could see their tails lifting up out of the water as they dove. We angled our boat off to the side, to avoid them, but it didn't work. The pod was too big, the area they covered was too large. Soon we found ourselves encompassed in a vast pod of sperm whales - about 100 or so.

Sperm whales are a very different looking whale. They look a little like a rectangular-headed submarine - they have very dark, sleek and shiny skin, and a sort of knobby knuckle on their back instead of a dorsal fin. They have tiny eyes that are hard to distinguish and very thick, stubby tails. They average about 50 feet long, so they are pretty big. Sperm whales are known to be aggressive toward boats that get too close, especially during mating season. Not being a whale, I don't know when mating season is - I just know sperm whales have rammed boats.

The whales would come up from feeding with an explosive breath of air and then stay on the surface for up to 20 minutes or so just breathing and then dive again, lifting their stubby tails straight in the air. We slowed our boat down to 3 knots by letting most of the wind dump out of our mainsail, we rolled up the jib, and then we turned on an engine and left it in idle just to make noise so we wouldn't sneak up on anyone. The wind was blowing pretty good, so the waves were worked up and the white caps and swell were making it hard to see the whales as they lollygagged on the surface. We all got on deck, scanning the water. For an hour, we threaded our way slowly though the huge pod, turning left and then right by 30 or 40 degrees - always trying to get to the outside of the herd, but then more whales would surface and we would be surrounded again.

At one point we found ourselves with a mom and a baby about 70 feet to starboard and a big bull about 70 feet to port. We turned hard to port, trying to bring our boat around the back of the bull in order to give the mom and baby more room. This, of course, brought us closer to the big one. We were within 40 feet of him and moving parallel alongside him. Still the whale was showing no sign of noticing us, or moving. We continued slowly along, trying to get behind him.

Suddenly, dolphins showed up out of nowhere. We hadn't seen them before this. They came up to our boat and instantly we had a phalanx of about 10 dolphins around us. At the same time, the whale started and came to life in an agitated manner. He lifted his massive head up out of the water to fix us with his eye. Then two of the dolphins did a very brave thing. They swam over to the head of the bull and got within feet of his snout. The whale reared his head higher, and then gave a mighty lunge toward the dolphins and away from our boat. With a huge splash, he dove.

That is the second time in Mexico that I have seen dolphins come from out of nowhere to help us when we were in potential danger. There is something very special about dolphins, and I will be forever grateful.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Our First Step in the Journey Home....

We celebrated a two momentous occasions just a few days ago. It all started when we went north once again to celebrate Jack's birthday in his favorite place, Puerto Refugio on Isla Angel de La Guarda. Our good friends on Adios 3 decided to come along too, to help us celebrate and to enjoy the wild beauty of the anchorage. All the blocks were in place for a memorable 13th birthday, but it turned out differently than planned. Jack became violently ill with the 'flu on his birthday eve and most of our time at Refugio was spent watching movies and recovering. Still memorable, but not what was planned!

And then another momentous event happened. After waiting out a wind storm, we made our first step on the journey home. Refugio was the farthest north place we reached this summer and when we left it, we were headed home. From now on we are working south. We have decided that our next step is to sail to Hawaii in spring and from there to the PNW. In the following six months, we will be traveling south to the tip of the Baja and preparing our boat for the ocean crossing. We have much to do, but our focus now is leaving Mexico instead of enjoying it.

We no longer have a "home" waiting for us, but in our hearts the PNW is our home. It is exciting and sad to be leaving such a beautiful country. We have found everything that we were looking for when we first decided to start this journey - greater family bonds, personal growth, and peace of mind.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good
I didn't break my leg when I fell through the hatch in the middle of the Great Race.
Meri has Amoxicillin on her boat that she is willing to give me.
Third Day brought down the Spectra water maker part from the US to fix our water maker.
LA Bay has two Internet cafes.
The lump on my head I got from dropping a 10 pound water can on it is finally small enough that I can put my snorkel mask on.
The starter on the boat's port engine can be tricked into starting with a well placed screwdriver.
Patrick is able to bleed the air out of the diesel lines before starting the boat engines whenever we need to move.
Patrick has jerry-rigged the dinghy motor so he can shift it into forward with the help of a vice grip and screwdriver.
We have been having a great time with Hotspur and Third Day, and today Adios III showed up in LA Bay.

The Bad
I did break my brand new camera when I fell through the hatch in the middle of the Great Race.
Rudy has developed a staph infection on his skin that is no longer responding to the antibiotics I have on board.
The part that Spectra sent to us is not the right one and our water maker is still broken.
The Internet in LA Bay is as slow as molasses and it's hard to upload pictures.
I still have a lump on my forehead from dropping a 10 pound water can on it three weeks ago.
The starter on the port engine cannot be fixed until we reach a larger town with a parts stores.
Despite working for hours to figure out why we have air in our diesel lines, there is still air in our diesel lines.
The dinghy motor can only be shifted into forward.
Third Day left this morning headed south and we won't see them for about a month.

The Ugly
Our dinghy broke two days ago in two different ways - the shifter cable snapped and it no longer can be tilted up when entering shallow water. Our breakdowns are just becoming ridiculous.
The bruises on my leg from falling through the hatch in the middle of the Great Race are truly just ugly.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Things are looking up!

First off - no new break downs. Well, not really. Our water maker stopped working, but Patrick quickly figured out that the water flow was stopped by the three (now dead) Gobi fish who had been sucked into the water intake valve and were clogging up with pipe. But that's not really a breakdown. Thank God we did not make any fishy tasting water before we found the problem. And he also found two dead fish in the engine water intake valve in the same week, so our boat is doing better than us lately at catching fish this week. Depressing!

Meanwhile, our friends on Third Day and Hotspur have finally shown up in LA Bay. Both the captains of those vessels need Internet for work, so hopefully they will be able to manage in this absolute desert of Internet services. There are two Internet "oases" in town, but even they are not always reliable for service.

Another change for the better is that the kind American who drove the cruisers around in his pickup on provisioning runs last year has set up a "Cruiser's Sleigh Ride" for tomorrow. He shows up in his pickup and trailer and everyone who is there climbs in the back, hangs on and gets driven around town to all the grocery stores, propane, laundry and gas station. It is heaven and very fun.

And best of all, there has been a respite from the heat. Lately the morning temperatures have been in the high 70's and the daytime temperatures do not go too far over 90 degrees, so life has improved immeasurably.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Summer So Far

We just came back to LA Bay after spending about 2 weeks out in the anchorages. We returned to Quemado which is a south wind anchorage, but when the winds changed to the north, we took our opportunity and moved to Este Ton on Isla Angel de la Garda. What a beautiful anchorage. It is very small and really only fits one or two boats. Everyday there were whales feeding just outside the entrance and at night you could listen to them breathing just over the sand spit. Every day while snorkeling we saw sea turtles and octopus.

And the beach combing was superb! I found hundreds of beautiful little shells (most, no bigger than a pea) that were all different shapes, colors and varieties. They look like jewels. Jack was thrilled to find buoys, a "perfect" bucket, and even Patrick kept a length of line he found coiled up and waiting for him. I also found a perfect skull of a tiny shore bird, a length of dolphin spine, and lots of sea urchin shells and dried starfish. Needless to say, I think JaM is floating a little lower with all our "treasures". We were going to stay even longer but one day the wind changed again and suddenly we found ourselves bounced out of the anchorage on big swells and 20 knots of wind from the wrong direction.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bahia de Los Angeles

Well, I can sum up the last month pretty quickly - bees, breakdowns, no internet, whale sharks, fishing, and sweat. There you go, you haven't missed anything. For those of you interested in more details...

When last we left off, we were just leaving Santa Rosalia, over a hundred miles away. Our grand plans to hit the islands sort of fell to the wayside, partly because of the wind (not a good direction) and partly because the islands that did have good protection had lots of boats in them. So we stuck to the less traveled peninsula side and had several beautiful anchorages mostly to ourselves.

It's kind of strange to be back here in LA Bay area. It is not quite what I expected. Over the winter months we had run into so many new cruisers who told us they would be up here for the summer. I thought there were going to be 50 or more boats up here - but only a few of them showed up. Only one of the kid boats that said they would be here actually turned up, so Jack has had much less kid interaction than last year. So far, not even our old friends from last summer (Hotspur and Third Day) are up here. Jack has not been complaining though, since the snorkeling and spear fishing are as excellent as we remembered.

This cruising season has been remarkable for a few reasons - more bee swarms than last year, fewer hurricanes/tropical storms, and tons of breakdowns. It has seemed like one long episode of "McGyver" around JaM. So many important systems began breaking almost as soon as we reached LA Bay, which is just the backwater of all places to try to find replacements or goods. So Patrick has been fixing breakdowns with anything he can find. He used a cut-up plastic bottle to replace the lid of our dinghy gas can which blew off from the heat pressure, and miraculously he used hose clamps and tape to repair the two holes in the 1000 psi, stainless steel tube on our water maker which had burst, sending pressurized salt water streaming into the storage compartment under our bed, which is where we store 150 lbs of dog food and books. What a MESS! We have also had a water pump on one engine fail, and the sail drive on that side has salt water intrusion again, and the starter on the other engine is in the process of failing, and the refrigerator's water pump system began failing. I think that covers all of the major system failures we have suffered in the last two weeks, but you can understand if I forgot a few. I am starting to feel a little besieged.

Many of the anchorages on the Baja have very aggressive bees, searching for water sources. Due to the design of our boat, we are a prime target. Our fresh water sink is placed right near the door to the cockpit and so the bees easily scent and find the water on our boat. We have responded by fashioning a "Tent Mahal" by taking two queen-size bed nets and sewing them together to form a tent that encompasses the entire cockpit area, all 10 feet by 15 feet of it. It is pretty sweet, but it severely cuts down on the air flow. So our choice is no bees and no air, or bees and air. It's amazing how many times we opt for no air.

Speaking of air, the temperature has been hovering around 100 and the water is about 86. It is not so refreshing to jump in the water - oh how we long for the 54 degree water of home! Thankfully, the catamaran offers shade and a wind tunnel effect between her two hulls, so we have a little more relief than others. We three have spent many hours floating and lounging under JaM's hull, just trying to cool down. It seems much hotter than last year.

Provisioning in LA Bay is much harder than last year, and NO INTERNET is available from the boat. Both these details are severely affecting our enjoyment of LA Bay. Last year a fellow American would bring all the cruisers around in his truck to get all their diesel, food, laundry and such. This year, there is no free ride. It is sorely missed, and provisioning around here has taken on epic measure. You try hauling 20 gallons of diesel a half mile in 100 degree heat! Let alone provisioning beer and groceries. And very expensive. Yesterday we bought one roll of paper towels and one small can of meat for $8 US. Ouch!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pepe's Inferno

We have spent the last week in Santa Rosalia Harbor, tied to a dock. Barring the center of the Earth, it is one of the hottest places on this planet, I think. Yet, we survived smiling. How can this be so? After spending a few weeks here last year, we did something that proves how desperately our brains were baked. We bought an air conditioner - just a small, in-window unit. We couldn't find one here in Santa Rosalia, so we had one shipped to a friend. We had already left Santa Rosalia by the time we picked it up from our friend.

It has sat in its original box, unopened, unused, for one entire year. I can't tell you how many times I cursed the huge, heavy box that took up so much room under my bed. There was never a cause to use it in all of the places we have been in Mexico. And then we returned to Santa Rosalia. Within one hour of tying to the dock here, we had the box ripped open and the unit fitted into our salon cabin window. Ah, Heaven.

Santa Rosalia is so hot and humid that it is hard to even bring ourselves to leave the refrigerated confines of our boat. Yet every morning, we leave before 11 am to get ourselves to Pepe's Taco Stand for the BEST SHRIMP TACO IN THE WORLD. He opens at 7 am, and he closes when he runs out of food. Every day, he starts with a fresh pile of shrimp and fish, and every day he sells out around 1 pm. We don't want to risk getting there after closing, so we head in around 11.

So the days have passed, waiting for Rudy to get better - eating tacos, braving town for provisioning trips and the vet visits, and hanging out in the luxury of our air conditioned boat. It is hard to leave Santa Rosalia, but we plan to untie tonight and keep moving north. Our next anchorage is 80 miles away and so we will be leaving around 3 am to make it in sometime next afternoon. The wind has died now, so it will just be a motor boat ride.

Rudy has recovered well from his latest issue. He is still not a pretty sight and mothers in town drag their big-eyed children away from his pestilent looking hide, but I can't blame them. He really does look like Hell.

We rented a cab for one hour yesterday and had the driver take us all over town provisioning - the modelorama (beer store), two tiendas (food), three ferreterias (hardware stores), and the vet. It cost us $22 US for the cab, but it was the only civilized way we could get all that stuff back to the boat in the heat. By the time he was driving us to the marina, the back end of his car was riding very low from all the weight.

Now we are stocked and loaded, so we will be heading straight up into the islands of the Northern Sea of Cortez, bypassing the next town (LA Bay) which is about 124 miles away. We plan to hit a few islands in the next weeks including Isla Salispuedes (Leave If You Can Island), Isla Partida Norte (North Departure Island) and Isla Angel de la Guardia (Guardian Angel Island). When we finally run out of vegetables, beer and fuel (or some combination there of), we will head back into LA Bay to re-provision, so our next internet will not be for two weeks or so.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

From Beauty King to Horror Movie Extra

What a time we have had since last writing in Loreto! There's been lots of different things happening, so this posting with be a smattering of this, and a tidbit of that.

The winds from the south have continued on for weeks now, making our passage northward, one long, fun sail. We have rarely needed the engines and have used only 12 gallons of deisel since leaving La Paz - 224 miles away! It's a major break-through for us power-boater people. We are continuing to work on our sailing skills and have pretty much perfected the "wing on wing" procedure for our boat. We still pull out our "Start Sailing Right!" book that we got 15 years ago from a lazer sailing class on a lake, and use it to figure out the best sail configurations for the wind. Thank God the Lagoon has a fairly simple sailing design with only two sails. I can't imagine knowing how to sail one of those "pirate" ships with multiple masts and sails.

North from Loreto, our first stop was San Juanico. As always, SJ is a beautiful anchorage, though it is not the most protected one you could find in a south wind. Despite that, we stayed through the swells since the anchorage was also home to Adios III and Iweld - both kid boats with "tweens and teens". For three days, it was teen heaven for Jack (and a nice break for Patrick and me). When Jack's busy with other kids, we get a little alone time - something that can be hard to come by in this lifestyle.

Finally the others departed and we moved around the corner to La Ramada. a tiny cove with superior south wind protection. Though nothing too beautiful to look at, La Ramada has become one of our top three favorite anchorages. It is not visited as often since it is so close to stunning San Juanico, and so the snorkeling is FANTASTIC. We snorkeled every day and saw things that we had not seen in two years of snorkeling - huge sea turtles, poisonous scorpionfish, big colorful eels and many beautiful, colored reef fish not seen before. The water is really warming up and even I can stay in swimming for hours.

One our third day in La Ramada, we spotted the beginning of trouble in paradise. I noticed a lump on Rudy's hip and a spot on his neck. The next day, the lumps had burst open and Rudy had oozing sores. Concerned, I washed them out and disinfected them, but they seemed to grow by the hour. By the next day he had more spots on his head, another on his leg. We realized we needed help and pulled anchor. The decision was to either back track 26 miles to the vet in Loreto, or head 77 miles up to Santa Rosalia. We decided to head for Santa Rosalia. That day we rocketed along and made 42 miles in 6 hours, but decided to pull over early to an anchorage we knew had good southwind protection, instead of continuing on to another anchorage that we had not visited before. Since the waves and wind were so strong that day we decided to be cautious. It was a good decision. Later that night we heard another couple on the radio who had a very bad day trying to make it into the anchorage we had been contemplating, before they turned around and beat it back to our location. They were seasick, scared and exhausted by the time the dropped anchor next to us at sunset.

The following day the winds were down to 10-15 knots, and we jumped off to an early start. Our speeds were down with the wind so we kept a motor on to make sure we would reach Santa Rosalia before the vet closed for the night. We made it in time. Some of the first words out of the vet's mouth after looking at Rudy were, "You need to take him to a cooler climate. He has hot spots." Easier said than done, doc. Then he asked if Rudy had experienced any "Tick problems" lately. When we affirmed that he had recently had anaplasmosis, the doctor went on to tell us that he often sees hot spots on dogs who had the "tick problems". Rudy doesn't just have hot spots though, he has nuclear hot spots. He looks like a zombie dog, with huge gaping, oozing wounds on his neck and head. He's so depressed and in pain. Though our plans were to quickly leave Santa Rosalia, we will be staying until Rudy starts to get better. His head and neck wounds are still getting worse, even under a doctor's care. Currently Rudy is sporting a new shaved look over his entire body, a "cone of shame" to keep him from ripping his neck open scratching, and the saddest look you could ever stand. It's heart breaking.

For anyone contemplating becoming a cruiser, I have some words of advice. Think long and hard about taking "Fluffy" with you. Medical care is hard to come by, and many things can go wrong out here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back in Loreto Again

We have had a fantastic sail up from La Paz! The wind was always on our stern quarter and we flew along "wing on wing" which means the mainsail is pushed out all the way to one side of the boat, and the jib is pushed off all the way to the other. It is a lovely, gentle way to sail. The waves and wind are both working together to push you along and even in 20 knots of wind, it feels like a fine day since you are running with the wind and not against it. We only had to run our engines a few hours the entire way from La Paz to Loreto.

Our plans now are simple. Having spent the last two months exploring the Loreto area islands, we feel it is time to move north, though I am sad to go. This area of the Sea has become my favorite area, hands down. There are so many beautiful anchorages spread thickly over a small area. Another reason it is so great is Loreto, itself. What a beautiful, convenient town, and very easily accessed by anchoring off.

Nothing exciting on the fishing report - though not from lack of trying. We have caught a four foot shark and numerous large (20-25 lb) Jack Crevalles, but nothing else. We have seen dorado (mahi mahi) all around the boat, jumping and feeding and swimming, but they never bite our lures! Frustrating!

We leave, headed north again, tomorrow and our next internet access should be in Santa Rosalia - about a week or two away. Talk to you then!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

North from La Paz

Jack and I had a great journey back to our boat. It could not have gone better - all connections were on time, and navigating the airports and customs was easy.

While we were gone, Patrick single-handed JaM from Escondido to La Paz. Our original plan had been to fly out and into Loreto, but we saved $1,000 dollars US by flying out of La Paz instead. The decision to change was easy. $1,000 is about what we spend total for one month in the Sea during the hurricane season!

When we got to La Paz, we were very happy to find our friends on Hotspur (formerly Windfall) and Adios III still there. Jack was thrilled to be reunited with some of his favorite boat kids and he spent a couple great days sailing around La Paz harbor on Adios III's sailing dinghy. Those boys were downright goofy.

We are just finishing up our business in La Paz (fueling and washing the boat are the last items on the list) and then we will be leaving today to start the migration north. Hurricane Season is a coming (actually, it is already here, but the hurricanes don't really become a threat to the Baja until August). Hotspur left yesterday, and Adios III is leaving today.

One last piece of news - Rudy had his final check up with the veterinarian here in La Paz yesterday. He is fully recovered. And he is a Birthday Boy! Yesterday, Rudy turned three years old. We were told a long time ago that he would develop a brain when he was 3. We are holding our breath to see if it happens!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Home on Lopez Island, WA

Jack and I are over half way through our visit home, and the time seems to be speeding up. The weather has been very cold and we even enjoyed a day of rain - typical W. Washington June weather. Unfortunately, I forgot how cold June was and did not pack well for our trip. Our visit home has given us a needed break from our life on the boat. Our goals for coming home were pretty simple. I wanted to take a bath, use a dishwasher, eat ethnic food I can't find in Mexico (Thai and Greek mostly) and spend time with my family. Jack's goals were to watch TV, eat Big Macs and go biking. We have both been successful in reaching our goals. Mostly I think we are just enjoying being in one place and not thinking about the weather. By early next week we will be back in Mexico.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dog Blog ---- The Rudy Files ---- Views from Under the Table

Master Evinrude
Ship's Dog
S/V Just a Minute


I am Rudy and I am Canine. I will try to use simple words so our human friends can follow along.

I like to hang out under the galley table. It is where everything important happens on our Vessel. Located right in the heart of the ship with good access to table scraps and the occasional spilled plate. It is Command Central.

Dad (aka Patrick or Alpha) and I took Mom and the little guy (Laura and Jack) to La Paz yesterday so they could go back North for a visit. With Mom away I decided to step up and take care of the Blog. Dad's ok and all but the Blog might prove a bit too much for him. I mean shoot after two years I am still trying to train him to walk on the shady side of the street! The trip went well. I let Dad ride up front because it seems to keep him occupied. We made our usual stop in Ciudad Constitucion where Dad seems to be quite friendly with the guys with guns. On our first trip the nice man pointed out that there was something wrong with the car but for $20.00 he could fix it. Thank goodness he stopped us otherwise how would we have known something was wrong? Yesterday Dad was standing with three humans with guns at the trunk of the car. They seem to be having trouble communicating. Dogs are so superior, just a quick couple sniffs in the right spot and everyone is on the same page.

I digress.

Anyway, after about ten minutes Dad announced that his Dog was hot and needed to get out of the Car. I thought, Great! I will greet these humans properly and get to the bottom of the problem. Heh heh. Well apparently the Humans with guns decided they didn't want to meet me. They promptly returned all dads paperwork and left. Dad hopped in and we sped off again. I didn't even get to get out.

I understand Mom left me here to look after Dad and the Boat. I think things are going pretty good now but holy smokes he gave me a scare last week. I woke up one morning and Dad had lost all his fur! Uck! he looked worse than a Chihuahua! I told him to eat some grass and he seems to be doing much better now. I will check back in from time to time or if I smell anything interesting. In the meantime don't eat anything I wouldn't eat.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Luck of the Irish, Baja Style

Jack and I went into the FerreMar store in Loreto and they had a decent assortment of small cables, too small for us. They told us to try another place down the dirt road, past the cow on the right, just before the river. So we did..

We followed the directions and found a semi-trailer with an old Mercury sign hanging on it, all locked up. I went around the back, through the goats, chickens and dogs and found a very nice lady doing her laundry. Have you ever noticed how some Mexicans don't speak English a lot worse than others? Sometimes they mean it, and sometimes they are just being modest. Well, we spent the next half hour convincing her to let us into the trailer. Finally in, it was very hot inside the trailer but Jack and I found piles of cables to dig through. All too small. After another half hour, I was ready to give up when a Mexican man came in and started talking to the lady as if we were not there. He started digging through the cables as well. It was all very strange. He finally looked at me, and in perfect English said, "How long is it?". I said 28 ft. He replied, "Oh, I have one of those."

He then marched past me, out the door. We followed him around back, past the goats and chickens and into a Mercury engine graveyard and then into a large shop with brand-new, shrink-wrapped Mercury 200 outboards lying on pallets and lots of other boat stuff. He reached up on the wall and took down one gray cable and handed it to me. Volvo Penta 28' was stamped on the side of it. Used, but for 200 pesos I couldn't pass it up!


Candeleros Chico

When last we left off, we had one-half a working helm control and were searching for the replacement cable in Loreto. Patrick and Jack were gone for hours, leaving me on the boat updating the blog. When they returned, it was evident that Patrick is still One Lucky Son of a Gun. In true Just a Minute style, Patrick and Jack not only had exactily the part they needed, but they had found it in a used parts store for $20.00 US. The next closest replacement part he had found in Escondido was not quite the right length and would have cost $150.00 US. We left Loreto with our find and headed back to Ballandra for the repair job. In just a few hours, the cable was replaced and working perfectly and we were off the next day bound for Candeleros Chico, a pretty little anchorage we had read about in our guide book, but never visited.

Candeleros Chico is just one of those places. The scenery is stunning, the anchorage deserted and intimate enough that only one or two boats can fit. In all directions, fantastic kayaking and hiking can be found. It would have been over the top if the water had been in better condition. Boats up and down the Sea are reporting unusually green, murky, cold water on the Radio Nets. I took Rudy swimming one day despite the water color and regretted it since my eyes started stinging when the water got into them. I am not sure what is causing the condition, but we are expecting it to clear someday soon. In the meantime, there is still plenty to enjoy.

Jack and I have our tickets bought for a visit home. Our flight leaves next week. We have been away from Washington for one year now and are both anxious to be home for a visit. Patrick will be staying in the Loreto area hanging out with Rudy and enjoying having his boat all to himself.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Patrick's New Look

Who knows what triggered it... the engine breakdown, stress over Rudy's illness, too much sun? Whatever, Patrick took a long-held goal of shaving off his hair and made it real. It's taking some getting used to (on my part) but Patrick is loving it, and it is growing on me - so to speak.Meanwhile we have spent a lovely three days NOT worrying about the engine break, and have spent it anchored in Ballandra on Isla Carmen swimming, making new friends and fishing. Today finds us back off of Loreto where there are stores that might stock the parts we need and internet access.

Rudy is much, much better. Thank you to everyone for your kind words and positive thoughts. Rudy only suffered the seizures for two days and then nothing since. He is also much peppier, waggier, and more like his old goofball self. He's even been swimming again. We are so thankful to have our dog on the road to health. He will be taking several medications for the next month to counteract the infection, and he has a special new diet (which he loves) that
includes lots of carrots, spinach, watermelon, apples, and other fresh fruits and vegetables. He also has a new, extremely expensive, extremely hard to find in Mexico, specialty dry dog food. It looks like he will make a full recovery!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

It's Nice to Have Friends!

Wow, we have had so many offers of help from friends all over the place. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone. We are really touched by the offers of help that have come to us from friends in California, Mazatlan, La Paz, and even New Zealand.

We are sure it will be an easy fix, whenever Patrick gets around to it. In the meantime we have Jack set up in the engine compartment with ear plugs. Patrick has always wanted to say things like "Full Ahead, Make it so!" Who needs a helm control when you have an engine jockey?

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Bad Day

Patrick and Rudy returned from La Paz on Wednesday, loaded down with medicine for Rudy and tons of food for us. While in La Paz, Patrick had gone on an epic provisioning run since the prices are so much cheaper there. Our first day together was a great reunion. It was so wonderful to have the two of them back on JaM. Rudy was still subdued, but you could tell that he was happy to be home.

Thursday (yesterday) was looking like it should be a wonderful day. It was beautiful and sunny like it usually is. Our only chores to complete were putting away the food and fueling the boat, and then we were heading out into the islands for a little quality time. As we were working through the chores, Rudy had a seizure. Anaplasma has varying degrees of severity, and Rudy has the worst kind, with brain involvement. He quickly came out of his seizure, after stumbling around the cabin for a bit. Then he had another one while lying down. Seizures are always a startling event to witness, though the patient is not in pain. It's very upsetting to watch since there is nothing you can do to help. So that event took a lot of fun out of day quickly. We knew that Rudy had a severe case of Anaplasma, but now we know it is the worst kind.

But we decided to push on, and get out into the islands. Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante is stunning and just 3 miles away from Puerto Escondido and so we decided to head there. There were several boats already anchored there, so we headed to a tiny little cove at the south end that was open. The cove had a beautiful little stretch of white sand that was surrounded by rock cliffs. There was just enough room for us to anchor in 20 feet. The wind was coming down the cliffs and pushing our boat around, so it was going to be a tricky hook drop, but nothing we hadn't done before.

Then, as we were getting ready to drop the anchor, disaster struck. Patrick was at the helm, positioning our boat in the tiny cove. Suddenly the boat was not under his control. And it was moving quickly toward a rock cliff in 14 feet of water. Patrick put the boat into reverse, but we continued forward at a fast pace. Patrick at first thought that the wind had caught us, and the boat was just taking a little while to respond to the engines. Then he realized that the port engine was stuck in forward and had not shifted to reverse. He floored the starboard engine in reverse and JaM quickly pivoted on the spot and was heading back out into the open water. Nothing like a few seconds of terror and confusion to get your heart going. Floating safely out in the open water, Patrick got into the port engine compartment and found that the throttle cable and shift cables had severed, leaving our port engine useless.

Since a catamaran is basically a big floating square, it needs two engines to maneuver. One engine on one side can push the boat forward, but it cannot maneuver enough to safely navigate tight areas, or counteract strong currents or winds. We knew we couldn't set the anchor is such a tiny little cove with one engine, so we turned around and headed back to Escondido. Even getting the boat up to the mooring ball in the 10 knots of wind was tricky, but with all of us working together, we got JaM re-attached to a mooring ball. Here we sit, back at square one, searching the Internet for info about replacing cables and hoping we don't need to make another trip to La Paz for parts.

All in all, a pretty bad day. Even in paradise.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Rudy Update

It turns out to have been a very good decision to seek medical help for Rudy in La Paz. The laboratory testing of his blood revealed that he has a tick-borne illness called Anaplasma which can be very serious. It would not have gotten better on the medicine course that our Loreto vet had prescribed. Further testing shows that Rudy also has a liver problem in association with his illness. The veterinarian in La Paz is very hopeful for Rudy's recovery since he is a young, strong dog. Rudy is still very sick right now but is possible that he can make a full recovery.

There are ticks all over the Baja and mainland Mexico and despite being on medicine to discourage ticks, we have found several crawling on him over our last two years, and have pulled a few off of him that had been feeding. Those buggers can be very, very tiny and they like to hide in hard-to-find places (between the toes and deep in the ears.) Ticks carry several different diseases. They transmit their diseases when they start feeding, just like when mosquitoes transmit malaria and Dengue. All pet owners (and people) need to be very aware of the danger of ticks in Mexico and keep a vigilant eye out for them. Rudy has come home with ticks on him after walking through towns or walking out in the wilderness, so it is a problem everywhere.

Rudy is not out of the woods yet, but we are very hopeful for a good outcome. Keep those positive thoughts coming!

Monday, May 31, 2010

One Sick Puppy

Rudy began acting extremely well-behaved around the time that Grammy and Grandpa left on the 20th. He would walk next to us off leash and not run away even with other dogs around, and he stopped begging for food. Patrick and I had a couple conversations about how grown up Rudy was becoming. Then we began to suspect his sudden good behavior was due more to the fact that he was too sick to steal food and misbehave, than a sudden maturity of mind. We didn't suspect he was ill at first since he was still eating and drinking, and his only symptom was that he was just very subdued. The clincher was when we had dinner with Pam and Neil on our boat, and he didn't even try to steal anything!

The next morning, his illness was becoming even more apparent. We thought he was obviously in discomfort and maybe had a fever. We brought Rudy into the local vet in Loreto and found out that he had a very high fever. The vet thought that Rudy had an infection and so he gave him some shots for the fever and infection and sent us home with more antibiotics. Unfortunately, there is no laboratory available for vets in Loreto, so the vet can only use his best guess to figure out an animal's illness.

Rudy seemed to get better over the next day or two, but soon it was obvious that his fever had returned (106.7) and that he was feeling very poorly again. We returned to the vet and got more shots and more meds to take care of the diarrhea that had begun. Again, he got better, his fever went away for a day, but once again this morning it had returned.

So early this morning, we rushed in to Puerto Escondido, Patrick rented a car and he and Rudy are now driving down to La Paz to get to a veterinarian who has access to a laboratory to figure out what is really wrong with Rudy. It is a four hour drive and Patrick will have just enough time to get there and be seen. As you can imagine, we are worried sick. It is scary to be so far away from the medical care that we are used to accessing so easily.

Please say a prayer for Rudy's quick recovery.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Love Boat

Welcome Aboard! We are currently accepting passengers for the Spring Cruising Season of the Sea of Cortez. Our first passengers are my parents, Grammy and Grandpa. They arrived in Loreto on May 11, and stayed through May 20th. During our time together, we anchored at several different anchorages on three different islands. The days went quickly since they were filled with kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, long talks and scrabble.

After Grammy and Grandpa's visit, we had three days to clean, rest and re-provision. Tomorrow, Patrick's brother and wife show up for a week long cruise with us around the Loreto area. There are numerous islands, lots of sea life, and spectacular scenery that make this area a great place to visit, especially on a boat. There are so many great anchorages, that we probably won't even revisit any of the places we saw with Grammy and Grandpa. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. We are looking forward to seeing Neil and Pam!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Almost a Hero, and Almost Dead

Our time in Mazatlan was as short as we could make it. We stayed just long enough to enjoy a couple of get-togethers with Third Day and Hotspur, do a final provision for the Sea since food in Mazatlan is so much cheaper than food on the Baja, and do a final boat wash down with a water hose for the next couple months.

With those objectives accomplished, we were gone on a straight shot to Baja California's Loreto, a trip of 306 nautical miles. The winds for much of it were a mild 5 knots, or nothing, so it was mostly a motorboat ride in calm seas. On one engine (for fuel conservation) we were making about 5 knots most of the way with a little help from the wind, which was mostly abeam of us. All factors adding up to ideal conditions for an uneventful passage - yet it was not quite uneventful.

We left Mazatlan just before dawn, and almost immediately ran into two fishing nets in the darkness. After a quick dip to make sure our props were not entangled, we managed to pull off both of them easily - but it set the tone for the rest of the trip. The next three days and two nights had more surprises in store. We continued motoring through the first day on a rhumb line to Loreto.

At 2 a.m. that first night, we ran into ANOTHER net in the pitch black of the moonless night. It was a very long one, and illegal. We were 36 miles off the mainland coast around the Altata area. Right next to us, trapped in the net was a large sea turtle, flapping ineffectively to free itself. My first reaction was to jump immediately into the water to try to free it, but Patrick restrained me. There was no moon, the boat was perched over the top of the cork line, and the wind was pushing us quickly away from the turtle. Patrick wisely pointed out that I would be lost if I jumped over right then and that our first priority was freeing the boat.

After Patrick's quick dip to ensure the props were free, we backed off and then began searching for the turtle so we could free him. We drove slowly up the net, far enough away to stay clear, but close enough to see it clearly in our spotlight. We could find no sign of the turtle. Hopefully, as we were getting ourselves out of the net we moved it around enough for the turtle to get free too. That is my greatest hope. It is so sad to see first hand the devastation that illegal nets wreak on marine wildlife. That image will stay with me forever.

In a TV show I would have been able to jump overboard, save the turtle and be drying off in time for a commercial break. However, in real life the facts are this - if you are separated from your boat in the middle of the night miles from land, it is very probable that you will die before you are found. I was only close to the turtle for a few seconds before our boat was blown away from it. I had no life jacket on, no line tying me to the boat, no knife to cut the net and no way to make sure that I would not become trapped in the net myself. And there was no time to assemble those items before the turtle was lost from sight. I wish I had a better ending to that story, but this is real life.

After that emotional experience, the trip continued on uneventfully through the next day. We break our watches on JaM up in the following manner. During the day time, we all three do stints at the helm, but not adhering to a strict schedule. Then at 8 p.m. four hour watches start for the nighttime. Patrick takes 8 to midnight, I do midnight to 4 a.m. and then Patrick is back on from 4 am through 8 am.

On the second night, I woke up just before midnight in the first nightmare I have had in years. It was all about alien abduction, and I was screaming in my dream, trying to keep them away from Jack. It was a truly terrifying dream. And then I got to wake up and go sit out in the endless deep black night with nothing around and wait for the little aliens to find me! Boy do you feel isolated and all alone when you are floating around in your boat, out of sight of land and everyone near you sleeping. I was definitely unsettled. And then in the midst of that nothingness, a meteor comes flaming down from the sky aimed right at JaM. I just about had a heart attack. I have never experienced a meteor coming toward my position on Earth, and it is very strange looking. It gave me that feeling of hopelessness like when I was a kid in a baseball game and the pop fly was coming down near me. What am I supposed to do??? It must have landed within ten miles of our position. That would have made an interesting blog post - boat sunk by meteor.

So all and all, a very strange passage. Through the rest of that night and the following day, little else happened except sightings of hundreds of dolphins, of many different types. We saw some amazing jumps taking them completely out of the water. Few bothered to come and play in our bow wake (probably since we were going so slowly) but there were times when they surrounded our boat. Dolphins are always a treat to see, up close or far away.

Now we are back in the Sea, and it feels like home. We are currently anchored off of Loreto and happily awaiting the arrival of my parents who are coming for a visit.